BLESSED are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. 2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. 3 They also do no iniquity e they walk in his ways. 4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. 5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! 6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. 7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. 8 I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.
These first eight verses are taken up with a contemplation of the blessedness which comes through keeping the statutes of the Lord. The subject is treated in a devout manner rather than in a didactic style. Heartfellowship with God is enjoyed through a love of that word which is God’s way of communing with the soul by his Holy Spirit. Prayer and praise and all sorts of devotional acts and feelings gleam through these verses like beams of sunlight through an olive grove. You are not only instructed, but influenced to holy emotion, and helped to express the same.
Lovers of God’s Holy Word are blessed, because they are preserved from defilement: (verse 1), because they are made practically holy (verses 2 and 3), and are led to follow after God sincerely and intensely (verse 2). It is made clear that holy walking must be desirable, because God commands it (verse 4); therefore the pious soul prays for it: (verse 5), and feels that its comfort and courage must depend upon obtaining it (verse 6). In the prospect of answered prayer, yea, while the prayer is being answered, the heart is full of thankfulness (verse 7), and is fixed in solemn resolve not to miss the blessing if the Lord will give enabling grace (verse 8).
The changes are rung upon the words ‘“way ’” — . ‘“undefiled in the way/’ ‘“walk in his ways,’” ‘“O that my ways were directed’”. ‘“keep ’” — ‘“keep his testimonies,’” ‘“keep thy precepts diligently,’” ‘“directed to keep,’” ‘“I will keep’”: and ‘“walk’” — ‘“walk in the law,’” ‘“walk in his ways.’” Yet there is no tautology; nor is the same thought repeated, though to the careless reader it may seem so.
The change from statements about others and about the Lord to more personal dealing with God begins in the fourth verse, and becomes more clear as we advance, till in the later verses the communion becomes most intense and soul moving. ‘“I will praise thee. I will keep thy statutes. O forsake me not utterly.’” O that every reader may feel the glow of personal devotion while studying this first section of the psalm! 1. ‘“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. ’” ‘“Blessed.’” The Psalmist is so enraptured with the law of the Lord, that he regards it as his highest ideal of blessedness to be conformed to it. He has gazed on the beauties of the perfect law; and, as if this verse were the sum and outcome of all his emotions, he exclaims, ‘“Blessed is the man whose life is the practical transcript of’ the will of God.’” True religion is not cold and dry; it has its exclamations and raptures. We not only judge the keeping of God’s law to be a wise and proper thing, but we are warmly enamored of its holiness, and cry out in adoring wonder, ‘“Blessed are the undefiled! ’” meaning thereby, that we eagerly desire to become such ourselves. We wish for no greater happiness than to be perfectly holy. It may be that the writer labored under a sense of his own faultiness, and therefore envied the blessedness of those whose walk had been more pure and clean; indeed, the very contemplation of the perfect law of the Lord upon which he now entered was quite enough to make him bemoan his own imperfections, and sigh for the blessedness of an undefiled walk.
True religion is always practical, for it does not permit us to delight ourselves in a perfect rule without exciting in us a longing to be conformed to that rule in our daily conduct. A blessing belongs to those who hear and read and understand the word of the Lord: yet is it a far greater blessing; to be actually obedient to it, and to carry out in our walk and conversation what we learn in our searching of the Scriptures. Purity in our way and walk is the truest blessed-Bess.
This first verse is not only a preface to the whole psalm, but it may also be regarded as the text upon which the rest is a discourse. It is similar to the benediction of the first psalm, which is set in the forefront of the entire book: there is a likeness between this 119th Psalm and the Psalter, and this is one point of it, that it begins with a benediction. In this, too, we see some foreshadowings of the Son of David, who began his great sermon as David began his great psalm. It is well to open our mouth with blessings.
When we cannot bestow them, we can show the way of obtaining them, and even if we do not yet possess them ourselves, it may be profitable to contemplate them, that our desires may be excited, and our souls moved to seek after them. Lord, if I am not yet so blessed as to be among the undefiled in thy way, yet I will think much of the happiness which these enjoy, and set it before me as my life’s ambition.
As David thus begins his psalm, so should young men begin their lives, so should new converts commence their profession, so should all Christians begin every day. Settle it in your hearts as a first postulate and sure rule of practical science, that holiness is happiness, and that it is our wisdom first to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Well begun is half done.
To start with a true idea of blessedness is beyond measure important. Man began with being blessed in his innocence, and if our fallen race is ever to be blessed again, it must find blessedness where it lost it at the beginning, namely,, in conformity to the command of the Lord. ‘“The undefiled in the way. ’” They are in the way, the right way, the way, of the Lord, and they keep that way, walking with holy carefulness, and washing their feet daily, lest they be defiled by contact with the world.
They enjoy great blessedness in their own souls; indeed, they have a foretaste of heaven, where the blessedness lieth much in being absolutely undefiled; and could they continue utterly and altogether without defilement, doubtless they would have the days of heaven upon earth.
Outward evil would little hurt us if we were entirely rid of the evil of sin, an attainment which, with the best .of us, lies still in the region of desire, and is not yet fully reached, though we have so clear a view of it that we see it to be blessedness itself; and therefore we eagerly press towards it.
He whose life is in a gospel sense undefiled, is blessed, because he could never have reached this point if a thousand blessings had not already been bestowed on him. By nature we are defiled and out of the way, and we must therefore have been washed in the atoning blood to remove defilement, and we must have been converted by the power of the Holy Ghost, or we should not have been turned into the way of peace, nor be undefiled in it. Nor is this all; for the continual power of grace is needed to keep a believer in the right way, and to preserve him from pollution. All the blessings of the covenant must have been in a measure poured, upon those who from day to day have been enabled to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. Their way is the evidence of their being the blessed of the Lord.
David speaks of a high degree of blessedness; for some are in the way, and are true servants of God; but they are as yet faulty in many ways, and bring defilement upon themselves. Others who walk in the light more fully, and maintain closer communion with God, are ,enabled to keep themselves unspotted from the world; and these enjoy far more peace and joy than their less watchful brethren. Doubtless, the more complete our sanctification the more intense our blessedness. Christ is our way, and we are not only alive in Christ, but we are to live in Christ: the sorrow is, that we bespatter his holy way with our selfishness, self-exaltation, willfulness, and carnality, and so we miss a great measure of the blessedness which is in him as our way. A believer who errs is still saved, but the joy of his salvation is; not experienced by him; he is rescued, but not enriched; greatly borne with, but not greatly blessed.
How easily may defilement come upon us even in our holy things, yea, even in the way ! We may even come from public or private worship with defilement upon the conscience gathered when we were on our knees.
There was no floor to the tabernacle but the desert sand, and hence the priests at the altar were under frequent: necessity to wash their feet, and by the kind foresight of their God the lover stood ready for their cleansing, even as for us our Lord Jesus still stands ready to wash our feet, that we may be clean every whit. Thus our text sets forth the blessedness of the apostles in the upper room when Jesus had said of them, ‘“Ye are clean.’” What blessedness awaits those who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, and are preserved from the evil which is in the world through lust I These shall be the envy of all mankind ‘“in that day.’” Though now they despise them as precise fanatics and Puritans, the most prosperous of sinners shall then wish that they could change places with them. O my soul, seek thou thy blessedness in following hard after thy Lord, who was holy, harmless, undefiled; for there hast thou found peace hitherto, and there wilt thou find it for ever. ‘“Who walk in the law of the Lord. ’” In them is found habitual holiness.
Their walk, their common everyday lift:, is obedience unto the Lord. They live by rule, that rule the command of the Lord God. Whether they eat or drink, or whatsoever they do, they do all in the name of their great Master and Exemplar. To them religion is nothing out of the way, it is their everyday walk; it moulds their common actions as well as their special devotions. This ensures blessedness. He who walks in God’s law walks in God’s company, and he must be blessed; he has God’s smile, God’s strength, God’s secret with him, and how can he be otherwise than blessed?
The holy life is a walk, a steady progress, a quiet advance, a lasting continuance. Enoch walked with God. Good men always long to be better, and hence they go forward. Good men are never idle, and hence they do not lie down or loiter, but they are still walking onward to their desired end. They are not hurried, and worried, and flurried, and so they keep the even tenor of their way, walking steadily towards heaven; and they are not in perplexity as to how to conduct themselves, for they have a perfect rule, which they are happy to walk by. The law of the Lord is not irksome to them; its commandments are not grievous, and its restrictions are not slavish in their esteem. It does not appear to them to be an impossible law, theoretically admirable, but practically absurd; but they walk by it and in it.
They do not consult it now and then as a sort of rectifier of their wanderings, but they use it as a chart for their daily sailing, a map of the road for their life-journey. Nor do they ever regret that they have entered upon the path of obedience, else they would leave it, and that without difficulty, for a thousand temptations offer them opportunity to return; their continued walk in the law of the Lord is their best testimony to the blessedness of such a condition of life. Yes, they are blessed even now. The Psalmist himself bore witness to the fact: he had tried and proved it, and wrote it down as a fact which defied all denial. Here it stands in the forefront of David’s magnum opus, written on the topmost line of his greatest Psalm — ‘“BLESSED ARE THEY WHO WALK IN THE LAW OF THE LORD.’” Rough may be the way, stern the rule, hard the discipline — all these we know, and more — but a thousand heaped-up blessednesses are still found in godly living, for which ‘we bless the Lord.
We have in this verse blessed persons who enjoy five blessed things: A blessed way, blessed purity, a blessed law, given by a blessed Lord, and a blessed walk therein; to which we may add the blessed testimony of the Holy Ghost given in this very passage that they are in very deed the blessed of the Lord.
The blessedness which is thus set before us we must aim at, but we must not think to obtain it without earnest effort. David has a great deal to say about it; his discourse in this Psalm is long and solemn, and it is a hint to us that the way of perfect obedience is not learned in a day; there must be precept upon precept, line upon line, and after efforts long enough to be compared with the 176 verses of this Psalm, we may still have to cry, ‘“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.’” It must, however, be our plan to keep the word of the Lord much upon our minds; for this discourse upon blessedness has for its pole-star the testimony of the Lord, and only by daily communion with the Lord by his word can we hope to learn his way, to be purged from defilement, and to be made to walk in his statutes. We set out upon this exposition with blessedness before us; we see the way to it, and we know where the law of it is to be found: let us pray that as we pursue our meditation we may grow into the habit and walk of obedience, and so feel the blessedness of which we read. 2. ‘“Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. ’” ‘“Blessed are they that keep his testimonies. ’” What! A second blessing?
Yes, they are doubly blessed whose outward life is supported by an inward zeal for God’s glory. In the first verse we had an undefiled way, and it was taken for granted that the purity in the way was not mere surface work, but was attended by the inward truth and life which comes of divine grace.
Here that which was implied is expressed. Blessedness is ascribed to those who treasure up the testimonies of the Lord; in which is implied that they search the Scriptures, that they come to an understanding of them, that they love them, and then that they continue the practice of them. We must first get a thing before we can keep it. In order to keep it well we must get a :firm grip of it: we cannot keep in the heart that which we have not heartily embraced by the affections. God’s word is his witness or testimony to grand and important truths which concern himself and our relation to him: this we should desire to know; knowing it, we should believe it; believing it, we should love it; and loving it, we should hold it fast against all comers. There is a doctrinal keeping of the word when we are ready to die for its defense, and a practical keeping of it when we actually live under its power. Revealed truth is precious as diamonds, and should be kept or treasured up in the memory and in the heart as jewels in a casket, or as the law was kept in the ark; this, however, is not enough; for it is meant for practical use, and therefore it must be kept or followed, as men keep to a path, or to a line of business. If we keep God’s testimonies they will keep us; they will keep us right in opinion, comfortable in spirit, holy in conversation, and hopeful in expectation. If they were ever worth having, and no thoughtful person will question that, then they are worth keeping; their designed effect does not come through a temporary seizure of them, but by a persevering keeping of them: ‘“in keeping of them there is great reward.’” We are bound to keep with all care the word of God, because it is his testimonies, He gave them to us, but they are still his own. We are to keep them as a watchman guards his master’s house, as a steward husbands his lord’s goods, as a shepherd keeps his employer’s flock. We shall have to give an account, for we are put in trust with the gospel, and woe to us if we be found unfaithful. We cannot fight a good fight, nor finish our course, unless we keep the faith! To this end the Lord must keep us: only those who are kept by the power of God unto salvation will ever be able to keep his testimonies. What a blessedness is therefore evidenced and testified by a careful belief in God’s word, and a continual obedience thereunto l God has blessed them, is blessing them, and will bless them for ever. That blessedness which David saw in others he realized for himself, for in verse 168 he says, ‘“I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies,’” and in verses 54 to 56 he traces his joyful songs and happy memories to this same keeping of the law, and he confesses, ‘“This I had because I kept thy precepts.’” Doctrines which we teach to others we should experience for ourselves. ‘“And that seek Him with the’ whole heart. ’” Those who keep the Lord’s testimonies are sure to seek after himself. If his word is precious, we may be sure that he himself is still more so. Personal dealing with a personal God is the longing of all those who have allowed the word of the Lord to have its full effect upon them. If we once really know the power of the gospel, we must seek the God of the gospel. ‘“O that I knew where I might find HIM,’” will be our wholehearted cry. See the growth which these sentences indicate first, in the way, then walking in it, then finding and keeping the treasure of truth, and, to crown all, seeking after the Lord of the way himself. Note also, that the further a soul advances in grace the more spiritual and divine are its longings: an outward walk does not content the gracious soul, nor even the treasured testimonies; it reaches out in due time after God himself, and when it in a measure finds him, still yearns for’ more of him, and seeks him still.
Seeking after God signifies a desire to commune with him more closely, to follow him more fully, to enter into more perfect union with his mind and will, to promote his glory, and to realize completely all that he is to holy hearts. The blessed man has God already, and for this reason he .seeks him.
This may seem a contradiction: it is only a paradox.
God is not truly sought by the cold researches of the brain: we must seek him with the heart. Love reveals itself to love: God manifests his heart to the heart of his people. It is in vain that we endeavor to comprehend him by reason; we must apprehend him by affection. But the heart must not be divided with many objects if the Lord is to be sought by us. God is one, and we shall not know him till our heart is one. A broken heart need not be distressed at this, for no heart is so whole in its seekings after God as a heart which is broken, whereof every fragment sighs and cries after the great Father’s face. It is the divided heart which the doctrine of the text censures, and, strange to say, in scriptural phraseology, a heart may be divided and not broken, and it may be broken but not divided; and yet again it may be broken and be whole, and it never can be whole until it is broken. When our whole heart seeks the holy God in Christ Jesus it has come to him of whom it is written, ‘“As many as touched him were made perfectly whole.’” That which the Psalmist admires in this verse he claims in the tenth, where he says,’” With my whole heart have I sought thee.’” It is well when admiration of a virtue leads to the attainment of it. Those who do not believe in the blessedness of seeking the Lord will not be likely to arouse their hearts to the pursuit; but he who calls another blessed because of the grace which he sees in him is on the way to gaining the same grace for himself.
If those who seek the Lord are blessed, what shall be said of those who actually dwell with him and know that he is theirs? ‘“To those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!
But what to those who find? Ah! this Nor tongue nor pen can show:
The love of Jesus — what it is, None but his loved ones know. ’” 3. ‘“They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.’ ‘“They also do no iniquity. ’” Blessed indeed would those men be of whom this could be asserted without reserve and without explanation: we shall have reached the region of pure blessedness when we altogether cease from sin. Those who follow the word of God do no iniquity; the rule is perfect, and if it be constantly followed no fault will arise. Life, to the outward observer, at any rate, lies much in doing, and he who in his doings never swerves from equity, both towards God and man, has hit upon the way of perfection, and we may be sure that his heart is right. See how a whole heart leads to the avoidance of evil; for the Psalmist says, ‘“That seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity.’” We fear that no man can claim to be absolutely without sin; and yet we trust there are many who do not designedly, willfully, knowingly, and continuously do anything that is wicked, ungodly, or unjust. Grace keeps the life righteous as to act even when the Christian has to bemoan the transgressions of the heart.
Judged as men should be judged by their fellows, according to such just rules as men make for men, the true people of God do no iniquity: they are honest, upright, and chaste, and touching justice and morality they are blameless. Therefore are they happy. ‘“They walk in his ways. ’” They attend not only to the great main highway of the law, but to the smaller paths of the particular precepts. As they will perpetrate no sin of commission, so do they labor to be free from every sin of omission. It is not enough to them to be blameless, they wish also to be actively righteous. A hermit may escape into solitude that he may do no iniquity, but a saint lives in society that he may serve his God by walking in his ways. We must be positively as well as negatively right: we shall not long keep the second unless we attend to the first; for men will be walking one way or another, and if they do not follow the path of God’s law they will soon do iniquity. The surest way to abstain from evil is to be fully occupied in doing good. This verse describes believers as they exist among us: although they have their faults and infirmities, yet they hate evil, and will not permit themselves to do it; they love the ways of truth, right and true: godliness, and habitually they walk therein. They do not claim to be absolutely perfect except in their desires, and there they are pure indeed; for they pant to be kept from all sin, and to be led into all holiness. Could they but always walk according to the desire of their renewed hearts, they would follow the Lord Jesus in every thought, and word, and deed of lift: yea, their whole being would be incarnate holiness. 4. ‘“Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. ’” So that when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants, we have done only that which it was our duty to have done, seeing we have our Lord’s command for it. God’s precepts require careful obedience: there is no keeping them by accident. Some give to God a careless service, a sort of hit-or-miss obedience; but the Lord has not commanded such service, nor will he accept it. His law demands the love of all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and a careless religion has none of these. We are also called to zealous obedience. We are to keep the precepts abundantly: the vessels of obedience should be filled to the brim, and the command carried out to the full of its meaning. As a man diligent in business arouses himself to do as much trade as he can, so must we be eager to serve the Lord as much as possible. Nor must we spare pains to do so, for a diligent obedience will also be laborious and self-denying. Those who are diligent in business rise up early and sit up late, and deny themselves much of comfort and repose.
They are not soon tired, or, if they are, they persevere even with aching brow and weary eye. So should we serve the Lord. Such a Master deserves diligent servants; such service he demands, and will be content with nothing less. How seldom do men render it l and hence many through their negligence miss the double blessing spoken of in this psalm.
Some are diligent in superstition and will worship; be it ours to be diligent in keeping God’s precepts. It is of no use traveling fast if we are not in the right road. Men .have been diligent in a losing business, and the more they have traded the more they have lost: this is bad enough in commerce, we cannot afford to have it so in our religion.
God has not commanded us to be diligent in making precepts, but in keeping them. Some bind yokes upon their own necks, and make bonds and rules for others: but the wise course is to be satisfied with the rules of holy Scripture, and to strive to keep them all, in all places, towards all men, and in all respects. If we do not this, we may become eminent in our own religion, but we shall not have kept the command of God, nor shall we be accepted of him.
The Psalmist began with the third person: ‘“Blessed are the undefiled.’” He is now coming near home, and has already reached the first person plural, according to our version: ‘“Thou hast commanded us. ’” We shall soon hear him crying out personally and for himself: ‘“O that my ways were directed!’” As the heart glows with love to holiness, we long to have a personal interest in it. The word of God is a heart-affecting book, and when we begin to sing its praises it soon comes home to us, and sets us praying to be ourselves conformed to its teachings. Would not the reader do well to pause here, and by devout meditation impress his own heart with the divine authority’ of the Scriptures, that so he may devote himself personally to the careful, prayerful, constant, punctual, and cheerful keeping of the precepts of the Lords? 5. ‘“O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! ’” Divine commands should direct us in the subject of our prayers. We cannot of ourselves keep God’s statutes as he would have them kept, and yet we long to do so: what resort have we but prayer? We must ask the Lord to work our works in us, or we shall never work out his commandments. This verse is a sigh of regret because the Psalmist feels that he has not kept the precepts diligently, it is a cry of weakness appealing for help to one who can aid, it is a request of bewilderment from one who has lost his way and would fain be directed in it, and it is a petition of faith from one who loves God and trusts in him for grace.
Our ways are by nature opposed to the way of God, and must be turned by the Lord’s direction in another direction from that which they originally take, or they will lead us down to destruction. God can direct the mind and will without violating our free agency, and he will do so in answer to prayer; in fact, he has begun the work already in those who are heartily praying after the fashion of this verse. It is for present holiness that the desire arises in the heart: oh, that it were so now with me! But future persevering holiness is also meant; for he longs for grace to keep henceforth and for ever the statutes of the Lord.
The sigh of the text is really a prayer, though it does not exactly take that form. Desires and longings are of the essence of supplication, and it little matters what shape they take. ‘“Oh, that’” is as acceptable a prayer as ‘“Our Father.’” One would hardly have expected a prayer for direction; rather should we have looked for a petition for enabling. Can we not direct ourselves? What if we cannot row, we can steer. The Psalmist herein confesses that even for the smallest part of his duty he felt unable without grace. He longed for the Lord to influence his will, as well as to strengthen his hands. We want a rod to point out the way as much as a staff to support us in it.
The longing of the text is prompted by admiration of the blessedness of holiness, by a contemplation of the righteous man’s beauty of character, and by a reverent awe of the ,command of God. It is a personal application to the writer’s own: case of the truths which he had been considering. ‘“O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!’” It were well if all who hear the word would copy this example and turn all that they hear into prayer. We should have more keepers of the statutes if we had more who sigh and cry after the grace which alone can keep them from wandering. 6. ‘“Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. ’” ‘“Then shall I not be ashamed. ’” He had known shame, and here he rejoices in the prospect of being freed from it. Sin brings shame, and when sin is gone, the reason for being ashamed is banished. What a deliverance this is; for to some men death is preferable to shame! ‘“When I have respect unto all thy commandments. ’” When he respects God he shall respect himself and be respected. Whenever we err we prepare ourselves for confusion of face and sinking of heart: if no one else is ashamed of me, I shall be ashamed of myself if I do iniquity. Our first parents never knew shame till they made the acquaintance of the old serpent, and it never left them till their gracious God had covered them with sacrificial skins.
Disobedience made them naked and ashamed. We, ourselves, will always have cause’, for shame till every sin is vanquished, and every duty is observed. When we pay a continual and universal respect to the will of the Lord, then we shall be able to look ourselves in the face in the looking- glass of the law, and we shall not blush at the sight of men or devils, however eager their malice may be to lay somewhat to our charge.
Many suffer from excessive diffidence, and this verse suggests a cure. An abiding sense of duty will make us bold, we shall be afraid to be afraid. No shame in the presence of man will hinder us when the fear of God has taken full possession of our minds. When we are on the king’s highway by daylight, and are engaged upon royal business, we need ask no man’s leave. It would be a dishonor to a king to be ashamed of his livery and his service; no such shame should ever crimson the cheek of’ a Christian, nor will it if he has due reverence for the Lord his God. There is nothing to be ashamed of in a holy life: a man may be ashamed of his pride, ashamed of his wealth, ashamed of his own children; but he will never be ashamed of having in all things regarded the will of the Lord his God.
It is worthy of remark that David promises himself no immunity from shame till he has carefully paid homage to all the precepts. Mind that word ‘“all, ’” and leave not one command out of your respect. Partial obedience still leaves us liable to be called to account for those commands which we have neglected. A man may have a thousand virtues, and yet a single failing may cover him with shame.
To a poor sinner who is buried in despair, it may seem a very unlikely thing that he should ever be delivered from shame. He blushes, and is confounded, and feels that he can never lift up his face again. Let him read these words: ‘“Then shall I not be ashamed.’” David is not dreaming, nor picturing an impossible case. Be assured, dear friend, that the Holy Spirit cart renew in you the image of God, so that you shall yet look: up without fear. O for sanctification, to direct us in God’s way; for then shall we have boldness both towards God and his people, and shall no more crimson with confusion.
Dr. Watts turns this passage into admirable rhyme: let us sing with him — ‘“Then shall my heart have inward joy, And keep my face from shames When all thy statutes I obey, And honor all thy name. ’” 7. ‘“I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. ’” ‘“I will praise thee. ’” From prayer to praise is never a long or a difficult journey. Be sure that he who pray.,; for holiness will one day praise for happiness. Shame having vanished, silence is broken, and the formerly silent man declares, ‘“I will praise thee.’” He cannot but promise praise while he seeks sanctification. Mark how well he knows upon what head to set the crown. ‘“I will praise thee. ’” He would himself be praiseworthy, but he counts God alone worthy of praise. By the sorrow and shame of sin he measures his obligations to the Lord, who would teach Him the: art of living so that he should clean escape from his former misery. ‘“With uprightness of heart. ’” His heart would be upright if the Lord would teach him, and then it would praise its teacher. There is such a thing as false and reigned praise, and this the Lord abhors; but there is no music like that which comes from a pure soul which standeth in its integrity.
Heart praise is required, uprightness in that heart, and teaching to make the heart upright. An upright heart is sure to bless the Lord; for grateful adoration is a part of its uprightness: no man can be right unless he is upright towards God, and this involves the rendering to him the praise which is his due. ‘“When I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. ’” We must learn to praise, learn that we may praise, and praise when we have learned. If we are ever to learn the Lord must teach us, and especially upon such a subject as his judgments, for they are a great deep. While these are passing before our eyes, and we are learning from them, we ought to praise God; for the original is not, ‘“when I have learned,’” but, ‘“in my learning.’” While yet I am a scholar I will be a chorister: my upright heart shall praise thine uprightness, my purified judgment shall admire thy judgments. God’s providence is a book full of teaching, and to those: whose hearts are right it is a music-book, out of which they chant to Jehovah’s praise. God’s word is full of the record of his righteous providences, and as we read it we feel compelled to burst forth into expressions of holy delight and ardent praise. When we both read of God’s judgments and become joyful partakers in them, we are doubly moved to song — song in which there is neither formality, nor hypocrisy, nor lukewarmness; for the heart is upright in the presentation of its praise. 8. ‘“I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly. ’” ‘“I will keep thy statutes. ’” A calm resolve. When praise calms down :into solid resolution it is well with the soul. Zeal which spends itself in singing, and leaves no practical residuum of holy living, is little worth: ‘“I will praise’” should be coupled with’” I will keep.’” This firm resolve is by no means boastful, like Peter’s ‘“though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee’”; for it is followed by a humble prayer for divine help: ‘“O forsake me not utterly. ’” Feeling his own incapacity, he trembles lest he should be left to himself, and this fear is increased by the horror ‘which he has of falling into sin. The ‘“I will keep’” :sounds rightly enough now that the humble cry is heard with it. This is a happy amalgam: resolution and dependence We meet with those who to all appearance humbly pray, but there is no force of character, no decision in them, and consequently the pleading of the closet is not embodied in the life: on ‘the other hand, we meet with abundance of resolve attended with an entire absence ,of dependence upon God, and this makes as poor a character as the former. ‘The Lord grant us to have such a blending of excellences that we may be ‘“perfect and entire, wanting nothing.’” This prayer is one which is certain to be heard; for .assuredly it must be highly pleasing to God to see a :man set upon obeying his will, and therefore it must be most agreeable to him to be: present with such a :person, and to help him in his endeavors. How can he forsake one who does not forsake his law?
The peculiar dread which tinges this prayer with a somber hue is the fear of utter forsaking. Well may’ the soul cry out against such a calamity. To be left, that we may discover our weakness, is a sufficient trial: to be altogether forsaken would be ruin and death. Hiding the face in a little wrath for a moment brings us very low: an absolute desertion would plunge us ultimately in the lowest hell. But the Lord never has utterly forsaken his servants, and he never will, blessed be his name. If we long to keep his statutes he will keep us; yea, his grace will keep us keeping his law.
There is rather a sharp descent from the mount of benediction, with which the first verse began, to the almost wail of this eighth verse, yet this is spiritually and experimentally a decided and gracious growth; for from admiration of goodness we have come to a burning longing after’ God, pining after communion with him, and an intense horror lest it should not be enjoyed. The sigh of verse 5 is now supplanted by an actual prayer from the depths of a heart conscious of its undesert, and sensible of its entire dependence upon divine love. ‘The two ‘“I wills’” — ‘“ I will praise thee,’” and ‘“I will keep thy statutes’” — needed to be seasoned with some such lowly petition, or it might have been thought that the good man’s dependence was in some degree fixed upon his own determination. He presents his resolutions like a sacrifice, but he cries to heaven for the fire, To will is present with him, but he cannot perform that which he would unless the Lord will abide with him.
This last verse of the first octave has a link with the first of the next in this fashion: Lord, do not forsake me, for wherewith shall I cleanse my way if thou be gone from me, and thy law ceases to have power over me